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Project Management for, uh, Managers

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Today in SmartPlanet's Pure Genius blog, Vince Thompson interviews Michael Bender, CEO and Founder of Ally Business Developers about his new book A Manager's Guide to Project Management. [1]  The title isn't as redundant as it sounds.  The book does not tell project managers how to run their projects, but instead targets senior managers and executives to help them get the most out of their projects and project managers. 

With my mind still filled from recent in-blog discussions with Steve Levy with thoughts of implementing legal project management at the system level, coming across this article seemed synchronicitous. According to the author, this book will help senior management:

successfully integrate projects into the organization's environment, select and reject projects based on the organization's overall objectives and strategy, develop a balanced portfolio that achieves all the organization's strategic objectives, develop continuous improvement programs for project management, provide simple and effective oversight, and balance resources and risks across projects, research and operations. I[t] also address[es] outsourcing, globalization, and how projects take innovations and turn them into products.
The interview is an anteresting enough read that I've added the book to my Amazon wish list. The following are some points that stuck out.

  • "One of my key metrics to determine if an organization is overloaded is if they have to prioritize projects. The fact that you have to prioritize (at least at the tactical level) means that you're overworked."  

  • "Ensure the project aligns with the organization. This will help you generate buy-in and support from executives and your team."

  • "Encourage and provide truthful estimates. If your team pads task estimates, then you pad project estimates, then you add risk contingency on top of all that, don't be surprised when senior managers cut your budgets and schedules. Get truthful estimates from you team, provide truthful estimates to your management, then defend them.  It's easier to make good decisions when you have accurate facts, than if you have mistruths."

  • "The problem I see for project failures isn't that the steps are faulty or unknown, the problem is that they're just not followed. Project managers fail to apply appropriate rigor leaving holes in their plans which manifest themselves as delays, poor quality, and cost overruns....Project management as a discipline is well-known and highly reliable. You just have to do it."

Lastly, I found the following to be particularly timely given my post this week about tools not making the project manager:

I don't have a particular preference for software. There are many good packages out there and I encourage people to review the prevalent offerings before making a choice, don't just take the obvious product(s) just because they're obvious. I'm quite happy to use whatever my clients are using. When I'm working on my car, I find the Stanley screwdriver just as useful as the Craftsman. It's knowing what to do with the screwdriver that makes me a mechanic.
Bender's emphasis on the premise that "all projects must support the organization" nicely complements the main theme in my discussions with Steven Levy. To succeed, legal project management efforts must begin with a deep understanding of the law firm's environment. Unlike the business executives that are Bender's audience, however, law firm partners often do not work in a business-oriented culture that naturally sees the value of project management.

Before discussing how projects must support the legal environment, perhaps the law firm may need to dust off or develop more modern, business oriented, value focused definitional statements and redefine their environment as one where efficiency has a place at the table.

[1] Vince Thompson, Getting projects right, Pure Genius, Sept. 29, 2009, at

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In an article for The Register, Ken Young lists four essential characteristics of project managers.[1]  All four characterists also apply to legal-project managers...with some minor twists and caveats.    "PMs do it in the right or... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Paul C. Easton published on September 30, 2009 3:23 AM.

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